Exhausting, Exhilarating

Mothering, no matter what day it is

This was a long week. A long, emotion-filled, jam-packed with big ups and frustrating downs kind of week. The sort of week you wonder—big picture—why the Earth hasn’t shaken us off like fleas (God knows it’s trying.) And the kind of week that leaves you—small picture—washed up on the shores of Friday afternoon like Tom Hanks in Cast Away.

This was a week of getting-ready-for-braces and what’s-wrong-with-your-leg-PT appointments (and eating creemees in between appointments, in place of lunch), early morning jazz band rehearsal, buying giant boxes of salty snacks for the play bake sale because ain’t nobody got time to bake fuckall this week. Then in the midst of these mundane happenings, there was another school shooting just a week after another school shooting and it’s becoming clear we are training children to fight the fights the rest of us don’t want to fight. We are training children to become martyrs. I cried this week, I think three times? All different reasons. I stomped around and complained loudly about moving out of this country, making my daughter burst into tears over leaving her friends (we are not moving out of this country). I just want to tuck these-now-giant-children under my arms and flee the godforsaken gun culture whose grip may never be broken. And run away from the the hounds of Hell that’ve been released, gushing, full of thick poison, into our collective bloodstream. I want to escape, I want to keep them safe. I love them. I worry. I worry every day. Then I had to cut the conversation short because laundry.

This week I’ve fielded no fewer than six new freelance projects, wrote three new pieces, and desperately tried to find homes for three other mother-themed pieces under the annual Mother’s Day deadline. I absorbed complicated rejections—the worst kind of rejections that are actually acceptances initially then officially rejections. Ugh. I’ve picked up my kids from play rehearsal late every night as they prepared for their final performances this weekend and all that entails—nightly washing of the same socks and shirts, nagging them to take showers, soothing last minute panics, celebrating triumphs, weighing criticism, so many emotions, pretty much all of them. I’ve had to process their feelings with them while not even remotely keeping my own in check.

This all to say, I have been a mother this week. I have been a mother to these kids right in front of me. I have mourned, thinking of the mothers across this country who have lost their children this past week in ways unimaginable yet increasingly unsurprising. I have mourned, thinking of the mothers here in Vermont who lost their girls this year—one in February, one just a couple of weeks ago. I have mothered up and all the way down this week, trying to make as much money as I can, say ‘yes’ to everything that has come my way, then in parallel write pieces with little to no chance of making me any money at all but to get the work out there, help sell my book, and in the midst of it, field feedback on my second book.

I have found pockets in this chaos to drag myself to yoga early over and over again. I’ve crawled onto my mat, facedown, and spent fifteen minutes before class just inhaling through my nose, exhaling loudly out of my mouth. Trying to get it out, get it out of me. I have clicked OKAY on notifications every 4 minutes that my hard drive space is low and hello bitch Dropbox can't sync until you free some disk space up.

Free some disk space up. Fuck you, free some disk space up. YOU FREE SOME DISK SPACE UP.

I have had estimates pouring in for things that need to get done to our house that we can’t afford to do yet still need to get done. I’ve been sorting boxes of old photos and spent most of that time wondering who that person is. Who is she? Who was she? Did she know anything at all? Did she have any idea?

This week I wrote about what being fifty is like, the 6-week “heartbeat” bill, intense mothering advice, juice cleanses, rape defense classes, mass shootings, easy ways to support moms, and now this thing. I was so written out and wrung out by last night that this newsletter existing at all is a Mother’s Day miracle.

Because of my book, because of where and how all my writing began, I feel pressure to chime in on Mother’s Day. To get pieces published. To say something, anything. This newsletter squarely falls in the “something, anything” category because I don’t even know what my point is. Other than Mother’s Day is one day. I won’t even be celebrating it tomorrow. We have to work on our house. My kids will have gotten home from their last play performance around midnight, exhausted, exhilarated. There are no reservations, there are no plans. A year ago on Mother’s Day I was at Powell’s doing the biggest, most meaningful reading of my entire book tour. Three thousand miles away from my kids. And it wasn’t sad. It was exhausting, exhilarating.

Just like being a mother.

Happy Mother’s Day, whatever that might mean to you. It doesn’t have to mean anything, really. It can just be a Sunday you spend reading the paper and walking your dog, feeling the sunshine on your face, and thinking of all the exhausted, exhilarated women who keep it all going. The women who know how you feel and, if they don’t, love you enough to really try.

• MCSWEENEY’S: I now have to write a follow-up piece based on the reactions to this piece. 🙄PSA: No one ever died from shutting up. “Things People Say When You Get Divorced That They Really Should Say When You Get Engaged”
• THE CUT: I am v v v thrilled to be back on The Cut, especially with this piece. I think it’s my favorite piece of 2019 so far! “How to Be the Best Mom”
• MEDIUM: My reaction to the 6-week “heartbeat” bill. “Other Clumps of Cells That Should be Considered ‘Natural Persons’ and Worthy of Rabid Protection”

• SLATE “An Ode to the Moms”, an excerpt: “There is a photo in one of my photo albums that my mother must have taken a version of hundreds of times, over decades: a cluster of middle-aged women, glowing tan from the sun and wearing drapey, jewel-toned fabrics, holding plastic cups of wine or gin and tonic, turning toward the camera and smiling. These are the Moms, the matriarchs of the families that surrounded us throughout my childhood … Because I’m an American woman, as I get older, it becomes harder to see myself as interesting, funny, or magnetic—as anything other than surplus. But because of these women, I can imagine being middle-aged.”
• THE NEW YORKER “The Hormones They Are A-Changin’” One of my favorites by Emily Flake, and that’s really saying something. Favorite line: “What has two thumbs and is real chill?”
• THE ATLANTIC Knock Down the House and the Quiet Insurgency of Tears” If you haven’t watched Knock Down the House PLEASE DO. It will truly make you feel better about the state of this country. Maybe don’t read this piece until you do, though, it’s spoiler-y when it comes to the emotional punch this doc packs. A (safe) excerpt: “Knock Down the House offers a counterargument to empty stoicism and the strict-father model: The tears, here, double almost as campaign promises. They suggest the kind of passion and compassion that, the film argues, have been absent from the behavior of many of the (white, male) politicians who have shaped the status quo to their preferences. They suggest that the feminine-coded qualities that have often been treated as liabilities in political life are, in fact, profound assets.”
• WGBH “The Kid Who 'Put Everybody In Stitches' At Boston Symphony Hall Has Been Found” This story brought the happy tears, for lots of reasons. “Seconds after the orchestra stopped playing Mozart's ‘Masonic Funeral Music’ at the Boston Symphony Hall on Sunday, 9-year-old Ronan Mattin was so swept away by the music that he loudly exclaimed — for the whole auditorium to hear — ‘Wow!’ After a beat, as Ronan's awe-filled ‘Wow!’ echoed throughout the hall, the audience burst into laughter and cheers.”
• NYTIMES “What Good Dads Get Away With” This viral op-ed is by the author of the amazing book I told you about here, ALL THE RAGE: MOTHERS, FATHERS, AND THE MYTH OF EQUAL PARTNERSHIP. An excerpt: “Sociologists attribute the discrepancy between mothers’ expectations and reality to “a largely successful male resistance.” This resistance is not being led by socially conservative men, whose like-minded wives often explicitly agree to take the lead in the home. It is happening, instead, with relatively progressive couples, and it takes many women — who thought their partners had made a prenatal commitment to equal parenting — by surprise.” Oh well, Happy Mother’s Day!

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